Aurora police union chief seeking criminal charges against Elijah McClain protest leader

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Candice Bailey looks out over a crowd of hundreds during a July 3, 2020 press conference following the release of photos of police officers mocking a carotid hold on the site of where Elijah McClain had his fateful encounter with APD.
Photo by PHILIP B. POSTON/Sentinel Colorado

AURORA | The president of the Aurora Police Department’s primary bargaining union has said he is exploring possible criminal charges against the organizer of a protest at the Aurora municipal complex last weekend.

Police Sgt. Marc Sears said he is looking into elements of Colorado’s terroristic threats law to possibly levy such charges against Candice Bailey, a co-founder of the Frontline Party for Revolutionary Action who helped organize the demonstration calling for justice for Elijah McClain on July 25. Bailey also sits on the city’s nascent police reform task force.

“I would like to pursue it immediately,” Sears said.

The president of the local Fraternal Order of Police chapter said he was concerned with comments Bailey made in front of Aurora police headquarters earlier in the day. The comments were captured on video and shared via Twitter.

“Ya’ll we got some work to do,” Bailey can be heard telling an applauding crowd. “They might put up a fence. That fence don’t mean s***. It doesn’t mean we’re not showing up… you just held yourself inside the house. Eventually it’s going to burn down with your ass in it. Now let’s go take this motherf***** over again.”

Two people were shot as the protest wove onto Interstate 225, and dozens of windows were later broken on the municipal courthouse after organizers left and night fell. A small group of people clad in quasi-tactical gear eventually upended a metal fence that was installed in front of the police station earlier this month.

Fireworks were also launched into the building, at one point igniting several items inside a courthouse office.

No arrests were made the day of the event, though the man suspected of firing a revolver into the crowd has since been charged with multiple counts of attempted murder.

Citing an ongoing investigation, a spokesperson for the Aurora Police Department declined to comment on any forthcoming charges against Bailey, but said any legal violations will be probed.

“Any criminal violation observed at the July 25th demonstration will be pursued for prosecution,” Officer Crystal McCoy wrote in an email.

Police are also investigating the events surrounding a blue Jeep that tore through a group of protesters on Interstate 225 earlier in the day. No charges have yet been recommended against the driver.

Bailey challenged Sears’ announcement.

“If he wants to go there, we can go there,” she told The Sentinel Friday. “I haven’t done anything, and I haven’t incited any violence. Every single thing I have done is peaceful. I have worked with the city and the police department on this to keep the agitators away.”

Bailey left the protest with other organizers from the Party for Social and Liberation before municipal buildings were damaged. She has repeatedly upbraided the smaller group of people who amassed in front of the police station later in the evening, goaded police and damaged city structures.

“I and the Frontline Party for Revolutionary Action do not condone violence and never once have we ever torn a single thing up,” Bailey said. “But these leeches — I call them the night crew — come in and attach themselves to us like wet toilet paper, and we get called for it. And now this man Marc Sears is threatening charges against me. I take that very seriously.”

Sears excoriated the city’s relationship with Bailey, who was recently named to a new police community police task force after Sears was prevented from joining the entity. City council members questioned Sears’ fitness for the new body, the creation of which has been spearheaded by Councilperson Nicole Johnston, due to a DUI conviction entered against him 11 years ago.

“I was removed from that task force, I was replaced with her, and here she is ultimately committing a crime — and felonious at that,” he said. “ … To say you’re going to replace the president of the union with somebody of this nature is insane. It makes a mockery of this task force.”

The group was created in the wake of the death of McClain, who died six days after police detained him and paramedics injected him with ketamine in the 1900 block of Billings Street last year. He was unarmed and never suspected of a crime.

During the creation of the task force, Johnston said she asked the union to contribute somebody other than Sears, but that request was declined.

The 13-member group became official in June and began meeting this month. Aurora police Officer Virgil Majors replaced Sears as the law enforcement presence on the board, though Majors is a non-voting ex-officio member.

Sears also challenged the position of other members on the task force who recently filed a class action lawsuit against the city and Interim Police Chief Vanessa Wilson, claiming that police used excessive force during a violin vigil held at city hall June 27.

“They’re part of class action lawsuit trying to sue the city using an absolutely erroneous complaint,” he said.

One of the plaintiffs in the suit who also sits on the task force, Lindsay Minter, rebutted Sears’ claims.

“It’s garbage,” she said. ” … People are going to be speaking truth to power as long as we’re waiting for justice for Elijah. Things are going to be said.”

None of the first responders who interacted with McClain the night of Aug. 24, 2019 ever faced criminal charges related to the 23-year-old man’s death. But a bevy of new investigations — by the FBI, Colorado Attorney General, state health department and the city — have been opened in recent months following renewed international outcry.